A cyst – is that the worst thing? Many women ask themselves this, especially if the ovary or uterus is affected. But don't worry: most of them are benign tissue. Only in rare cases can cysts in the abdomen be harmful to health. We explain what signs you need to look out for.
Many women get a cyst at some point in their lives. But what exactly is it?
Cysts can occur in almost all parts of the body, such as kidneys, head and breasts. In women, they often occur on the ovary or on the uterus. Here they form mainly shortly after puberty or before the menopause. But what is a cyst anyway? This is a tissue cavity that can be filled with tissue water, blood, pus or sebum. Here you can find out why cysts arise, what symptoms occur, how they are treated on the female genital organs and when cysts need to be removed.
Causes: How does a cyst form in the abdomen?
When it comes to cysts on the genitals, i.e. on the uterus and ovaries, cycle-related hormone fluctuations are often the cause. Most cysts in the abdomen are so-called functional cysts, which develop, for example, when the follicle in which the egg cell matures does not burst during ovulation and instead continues to grow.
According to the health portal of the professional association of gynecologists, “Frauenärzte im Netz”, functional cysts are benign in 98 percent of cases and recede on their own within about six weeks. Functional cysts are rarely larger than 10 centimeters. From the age of forty, the risk increases that cysts can be malignant. Regular check-ups are therefore highly recommended from this age.
The so-called chocolate cyst, on the other hand, develops as a result of endometriosis. The lining of the uterus mistakenly settles in the ovary. This tissue bleeds during menstruation. However, since it cannot drain in the ovary, blood-filled cysts form, which have a brownish discoloration. They have to be treated surgically.
Diseases of the thyroid gland or dysfunction of the adrenal cortex can promote the formation of cysts.
Stay away from the food when you're about to have your period!
Often cysts are only discovered during a routine examination, as they are usually asymptomatic. However, there are some signs that may indicate a cyst on the uterus or ovary. Regardless of whether cysts are benign or malignant, once they reach a certain size, they can press on the surrounding organs, which can cause back and abdominal pain. Pain during sex or during bowel movements can also be symptoms of a cyst in the abdomen. If the cyst is large, there is also a chance that the abdominal circumference will increase. In some cases, women can feel the cyst themselves.
Woman sitting on the bed and holding her stomach in pain
If you also suffer from abdominal pain outside of your period, you should have the symptoms clarified by a doctor.
In the case of cysts in the area of the uterus and ovaries, there is also a risk of irregular and painful menstrual bleeding. If you also feel severe, colicky pain in the lower abdomen, this may indicate complications. In any case, a doctor should be consulted as soon as possible. Even if symptoms persist for a longer period of time, you should have the causes clarified by your doctor. However, since the symptoms are very similar to those of menstrual cramps, a diagnosis is not easy. Complications from cysts are quite rare. However, it is possible for a cyst in the abdomen to rupture. The result is severe abdominal pain. However, emergency treatment in the form of an operation is usually only carried out if a blood vessel was affected when the cyst ruptured and internal bleeding was therefore caused.
A further complication can be a so-called pedicle rotation: Here the cyst rotates once around its own axis, which may squeeze the blood vessels that lead to the ovaries or uterus. In this case, an emergency operation is unavoidable, as there is a risk that the uterus or ovaries will no longer be supplied with blood and will therefore die. Signs of a twisted stem can be severe abdominal pain, nausea with vomiting, increased heart rate and sweating.
When to the doctor? diagnostic options
If you experience symptoms that indicate a cyst, you should definitely consult a doctor. He has several ways of assessing whether it is a benign or malignant cyst. Transvaginal ultrasound is one option. The doctor inserts an ultrasound probe into the vagina – if he sees a cyst with blurred edges and an unstructured interior, it is usually malignant.
The Risk Malignancy Index is an additional method. How does it work? Malignant ovarian cysts produce the tumor marker CA-125. This can be detected in a blood test. Together with the values of the ultrasound examination, the doctor then calculates the risk malignancy index in order to diagnose a malignant ovarian cyst correctly. However, this method is more suitable for women going through menopause. Because in patients of childbearing age, benign ovarian cysts can also form the tumor marker. The attending physician should therefore have sufficient experience in this area.
If a benign cyst doesn't go away on its own or is causing symptoms, your doctor may prescribe hormonal drugs to help the cyst go back